The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

May 1, 2014

Summer Feeding Program strives to ensure no child is hungry this summer

OSKALOOSA — A group of volunteers is working to make sure no child goes hungry in Oskaloosa this summer.

Central United Methodist will sponsor a program where kids can get a free lunch as well as fun and educational activities.

In Oskaloosa, more than half of students are eligible for a free and reduced lunch. And while that doesn’t mean that they all are struggling to find food at home, there are many who face food insecurity. The summer can be an especially difficult time without access to the regular meals provided during the school year.

“This is really a community effort,” says Amy Langdon, director of the United Way of Mahaska County. “So many churches, human service organizations and individual volunteers have come together to meet this need in Oskaloosa.”

The Summer Feeding Program will serve a healthy meal to anyone under 18 years old at three different sites throughout the community: Central United Methodist Church, 201 N. Market St.; Edmundson Park, shelter by the wooden playground; and New Hope Free Methodist Church, 821 Eighth Ave. E.

Lunch will be served on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 1 p.m. starting June 2.

While food will be the draw, the program also strives to staunch summer learning loss. Due to differences in learning opportunities like summer camps, low-income students on average lose more than two months in reading achievement over the summer, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains. By offering activities that promote reading, the program can help lessen this growing disparity. Martha Comfort, Oskaloosa Summer Feeding Program Director, says the program has already seen huge support from the community, but some fundraising will need to be done before the program can start.

“The meals are reimbursed through the USDA, but we are working to raise funds to provide meals until the reimbursements kick in, as well as to pay for the programming to the kids, such as craft supplies and other outdoor activities,” Comfort said.

For more information on the program or to find out about volunteer opportunities, contact Martha Comfort at (641) 660-5264 and mcomfort59@gmail.com or Amy Langdon at (641) 673-6043 and unitedway@mahaska.org.

This program does not discriminate against any child because of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.

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